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Adoptions aid in Columbine healing

‘We feel more complete as family,’ says one mother

SHARE Adoptions aid in Columbine healing
Brian Rohrbough and wife Lisa play with Rachel and Isaac (on floor), their adopted Ukrainian children. The Rohrboughs' son Danny was slain at Columbine High School.

Brian Rohrbough and wife Lisa play with Rachel and Isaac (on floor), their adopted Ukrainian children. The Rohrboughs’ son Danny was slain at Columbine High School.

Ellen Jaskol, Associated Press

DENVER — After his big brother was killed in the Columbine High School massacre, Adam Kechter asked his mother, "Are we still a family?"

Now Adam's a big brother to a 10-year-old girl adopted by Ann and Joe Kechter, one of three families who have turned to adoption since losing children in the 1999 school shootings.

"We were not trying to replace Matt, but we have a lot of love to give," said Ann Kechter, who first took in the family's newest addition as a foster child two years ago. "We feel more complete as a family."

"None of us gave up on the importance of life," said Brian Rohrbough, whose son Danny was killed at Columbine. He and his wife, Lisa, adopted two Ukrainian children, returning from Europe on Sept. 9 with Rachel Elizabeth, 2, and Issac Nicholas, 1.

"Even as Columbine made us think that we lost a child and it cost us this much pain, we knew it would be just as hard for a child who has lost a parent," Rohrbough said.

The Rohrboughs have been leaders in the fight to open records on the investigation of the murder of 12 students and one teacher by two teenage gunmen at their high school in Littleton.

They went through a struggle to complete the adoptions. After traveling to Ukraine, they had to go to Poland to get the adoptions recognized because the U.S. government does not recognize Ukrainian courts.

Danny's mother, Sue Petrone, and her husband, Rich, traveled with the Rohrboughs. After Brian and Sue divorced, they made a pact to make raising Danny their No. 1 priority, and both families raised him. It only seemed natural that the Petrones would be involved in the adoptions.

"They are family," said Brian Rohrbough.

Tom and Linda Mauser, who lost their son, Daniel, adopted a Chinese infant, Madeline, nearly three years ago. Their daughter Christie is a high school senior this year.

"I would have been content to be an empty-nester," Tom Mauser told the Rocky Mountain News of Denver. "It's certainly an adjustment in terms of being 51 and having a 3-year-old girl. But's she really brought a lot of joy into the house. It may slightly displace some of the grief that is there."